You’re in the Bronx if:
- Everyone you see is singing (loudly) to whatever they are listening to.
- Two drunk men sit next to you and beg you to take their number, then continue to yell it at you through the window as you get onto the bus.
- The smell of fried chicken is secretly tempting to you.
- La bandera is not served in every other home you visit.
- There are policemen that actually go and get coffee and donuts everyday.
- Fire hydrants break and leak at every corner (sorry Mrs. Kerr).
- There is a bonfire in the project building where your progressing investigator lives.
- The trash man you see as you leave every morning smiles and says “hi, mommy” in his best English.
- Mario kart racing mothers honk and yell and swerve as they drive their dear ones to school.
Well. This week has been–I’ll admit–hard. But it has been so good, too. The Lord is ever mindful of us and His hand is continually before us, leading the way and helping us learn and see and grow.
If there is one thing that I need, it is my testimony. And that, really, is all I have and–thankfully–all that matters. When there is no one there, the Lord always is. My favorite thing is to pray to Him and talk. Especially out loud. I have had some of the sweetest and most tender moments with my Lord as I am driven to my knees–driven, collapse, fall, whichever you’d like–and seek Him in prayer as I express the feelings of my soul. I have found myself alone in the mornings a lot this week, and it’s been hard. But, it has been an incredible blessing to use this time on my knees in prayer–en voz alta (in a tall voice, or outloud)–talking with my Father. Please pray. Just pray. And always do it. And you WILL NOT faint. I would even say SHALL not faint. And, as Elder Holland pointed out, that is language the Lord uses when He means business. I love prayer and it is becoming my soul’s sincere desire. I am so thankful that the Lord is molding me into one who honestly yearns for and depends on prayer.
Here are the highlights, or some. The blessings I have received and miracles I have seen are simply too many to write.
I am really trying to be more obedient–especially in my thoughts. I am pretty on track with my actuators and efforts, but my thoughts can always be better. What I mean, specifically, is harnessing thoughts of home and family–sorry, everyone–and thinking of the Savior and the atonement and picturing the people around my on the buses and trains in white and planning for a better lesson. But mostly just thinking of and trying to put into action what the Savior would actually do in each situation I am in.
At transfers, President Morgan talked about rationalization and humility. He referenced a talk from conference that said that rationalization leads you to apostasy. (I felt lame at I didn’t remember this…ha! Always more for me to study 🙂 ). I’ve been tempted to be lazy in my thoughts and studies and work, but I always remembered what a president Morgan said: rationalization leads to apostasy. Those are some harsh words. I am grateful to report that I have been working hard and doing my best to not rationalize my disobedience. When you get down to the nitty gritty, it can get tough. But the Lord is ever patient and ever there to help. So…Onward and upward! Look to God and live! I am trying to combat every beginning of frustration or annoyance or contention in my heart with love and humility. It usually takes the form of remembering my own weaknesses and faults (I don’t know if is the best approach, but there it is. I’m learning). “Are we not ALL beggars?” I am. I’m trying to be more humble. I am grateful to have a Lord and Savior who is always helping me.
Furthermore, it is amazing to me how many moods and feelings and thoughts I can have in one day. Discouragement, temptation, frustration, impatience and down heartedness. Tears and gratitude. Suddenly then happy as a clam. Happy, at peace, full. Full. Ha, that is kind of just how it is in the mission, I think. Broken hearted and discouraged, and then the Lord sends blessings–or your eyes are just opened a little and you can see the blessings that are ALREADY before you! And you are walking on sunshine. Man! The Lord is so good. How quick I am to forget His love and His mercy and His desires for me to be strong and happy and persevere. Man. “Remember, remember…”
We had some awesome lessons this week. One with Katti and Adalberto. They are so prepared for the gospel! Adalberto is going to be a bishop one day or something, he is so ready and the gospel is and will bless him so much! We read from 3 Nephi 27: 1-22 and talked about taking the name of Christ upon us through baptism. We shared scriptures about the spirit and how the spirit testifies only of truth–Christ. They understand that baptism is essential, and we invited them to be baptized. They both are undecided and explained how they want (and need) to prepare with marriage and changing their lives. We are prepared and excited to help them with this. They expressed desires to get married in a church–specifically our church–because they know that it is longer than just “till death do you part” (we still need to teach about temples). They are progressing well! We taught them to pray and Katti offered a prayer. Adalberto felt uncomfortable praying. He kept saying how he needs to prepare for his prayer. This is good, but we need him to get praying!!! Prayer is everything. Prayer and the Book of Mormon. I love what our sister training leader, Sister Westlund, said last zone conference about reading and studying the Book of Mormon, “eating and sleeping are just not as important.” Enough said! Please read the Book of Mormon and pray!! It is everything. They are everything to me. They are everything because God and my Savior are my everything, and scriptures and prayers are my direct access to them. Katti made us Mangoo and chicken with vegetables. It was so good.
I have been thinking a lot about Daisy and Katti and Adalberto. These are the investigators that I think of the most–they are progressing and keeping commitments and AWESOME. These three people, however, are some of the only people I legitimately cannot understand. I try so hard, but I am so slow with them! It is insane. And I plead with Heavenly Father to bless me specifically with the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues so I can understand and converse with them, specifically. It is a trial of my faith. It is so hard. I want it so badly!! Heavenly Father is making me humble and motivating me to work in my language studies. I want so badly to rid myself of this language barrier! But as I see this weakness more and more, I am coming closer to Christ. I depend on Him–really for everything. “Are we not all beggars?” It is just interesting, and even a testimony to me that He loves his children as I struggle with my Spanish, specifically and almost only with these progressing investigators.
One day, we had some appointments fall through, which is always a bummer, but it put us kind of near Venia’s house. We haven’t met with her for some time (almost 2 weeks) because her father passed away and she has been shutting everyone out. It’s been hard because she was progressing so well, and then she kind of dropped off the face of the planet. With our appointments gone, I felt like we should go over there, just drop by (she won’t answer or return our phone calls). And so we went. I am so glad we did. We didn’t have a big awesome lesson. In fact, we barely had a lesson at all–scripturally. But when she opened up the door and saw us, we could tell she was somewhat torn/surprised, but decided to let us in. It wasn’t much of a lesson, but it was great. We laughed and talked and cried together. She let out a lot of anger and frustration and just…just emotion to us. It was so good for her to let it out. Even she said, “Wow, I didn’t realize I still had all this in me.” I’m so grateful we went over, and she was, too. We are hoping to get her back on track for her baptism.
It is insane how hard the adversary works on us and on our investigators when good things and big steps are about to happen. He gets in the way as much as he can! Family members die, shootings happen, family comes to visit (good, but bad because we can’t see them for weeks), metro cards are stolen so they can’t come to church, your daughter doesn’t come to take care of the grandkids so you can come to church, the uptown trains are out of service–you name it; it happened this week. But we are just trying to work harder. I have been praying for strength and patience and love and it is amazing what the Lord has blessed me with this week. The enabling power of the Atonement is so real. It is power! I am so grateful for this.
Also, can I just say that it’s amazing how much more tempting it is to be off task when you’re alone? No wonder we have companions! It is so weird, because my desires to be obedient don’t seem to lessen, but my rationalizations seem to grow. And because my desires to be obedient don’t necessarily grow–just stay constant–and the rationalizations increase, it is harder to be obedient. Does that make sense? I see now that there are two problems with this: first, that my rationalizations want to increase. And second, that my desires to be obedient aren’t growing in this trial. They aren’t, or don’t seem to be, lessening, but because they aren’t growing, they are less powerful and strong in the face of adversity. I need to not only put off my rationalizations, but also constantly increase my desires to be more and more obedient. This is the formula for satisfaction and success and strength.
Wow. Heavenly Father always–ALWAYS–answers our prayers!!! My mind is blown and my heart is full. We came to church this week with our hearts full of excitement and gratitude that we were going to have 4 or 5 investigators come. I was so excited. We had Juana Gerardo, Daisy Gonzales, Catti and Adalberto, and Venia that said they were going to come. We went to pick up Daisy and she called us and said she couldn’t come. This made me sad, to say the least. We started our way back to the church, and literally failed so hard every time! We missed the bus, we went into a metro station that only went south, we went to another metro station to see a sign that says there are no northbound trains this whole weekend, and then we raced to catch up to a bus and then…we still missed it. It was comical. We finally just made it to a bus stop and waited. Ha, we barely made it back in time! But we made it. When we got there, not an investigator in sight, and our last hope was sister Beltram, who was going to bring Catti and Adalberto. We saw her, but no investigators. Fiddle.
I was praying this morning that church would go ok. Sometimes, especially on fast Sunday and testimony meeting, it is a little crazy and off topic with our sweet little ward. I was just praying that it would be about CHRIST. And the Lord answered that prayer. Everything was so great. The testimonies were so uplifting and powerful and on topic! I wished that we had an investigator with us, but…we didn’t. He answered my prayer about having a spiritually filling and sanctifying meeting. He is so good.
When sacrament meeting ended, we started talking and greeting and scheduling some appointments with some sisters, etc. and then out of nowhere is Adalberto! They had come in a little late and sat in the back! But they were there. They saw and heard the words that I did and I pray that they felt the same Spirit, too. I looked up and knew the Lord had answered another one of my prayers. I’m so grateful, I love Him and am so grateful that He is so good to us. We introduced him and Catti to the bishop and went off to Sunday school.
Sunday school was, too, a miracle! We walk in and the teacher writes on the board: “el matrimonio eterno.” Ha! Heavenly Father knows! He always knows! I couldn’t help but giggle as I saw His answer to my prayer, yet again, loud and clear. We had just started the lesson and had only gotten through the difference between the Lord’s definition of marriage and the world’s view of marriage–eternal vs. till death do you part. Adalberto let out an “amen” to that. And then, just as quickly as we started, Adalberto and Catti left to go meet with the bishop so they could talk about how and when they can get married.
We headed to Relief Society without Catti (still with the bishop) and the lesson was pretty good–on subject and doctrine-based. I turned around at one point and was so grateful to see a Catti sitting quietly with her granddaughter and Hermana Beltram. So good. So good! The Lord is so mindful of our needs and prayers. Woo!
After the meeting, she told us she was headed home, but was held up by the out reaching hands and hugs of welcome from the Relief Society sisters–something I was afraid would be lacking. I am just so grateful. I think it went really well. And before she left, she came over to us and asked us when we were coming over this week–apparently she thought things went well, too!
After church, we headed to Edelmira’s with a Book of Mormon in hand and excited to see her. I was nervous because I was really wanting to fast until dinner tonight, and Edelmira always feeds us–she calls us her kids (woohoo!). But I put it in the Lord’s hands–he knows my heart–and we went. It was great. Miracles happened, again!! We walked in and she led us to the kitchen, as always, and made us some boiled yucca with fried salami and avocado. It was really good. We went in with the intention of teaching the Book of Mormon, but were unsure as to how we could–she loves to talk and we were in the middle of hearing her big story when she picked up the Book of Mormon we brought and started to ask about the gold plates. Ha! Thank you Heavenly Father!
We were just beginning to explain and teach about how we got the Book of Mormon when she flipped through it twice and on the second time landed in the back where the index entry is: “Emma Smith” and right below her “Joseph Smith.” Wow! She looked up and smiled and said, “Look! There he is! God is answering my question.” Why yes, yes He is. She kept saying how she know it was God because “when you flip through a book, you always land in the middle. But I landed in the index in the back! It is him!” as she looked up and smiled.
I didn’t even know that entry existed! She read it out loud, pausing to put in her two cents and amens and thoughts here and there (she reminds me of my mother in that way). When she finished she smiled and then told us to come in the living room so she could give us some candy before we left. I stopped her and bore my testimony of the truthfulness of that book and the sacredness and reality of Jose Smith’s call as a prophet of God. It was special–at least to me. It was a miracle that she opened up to that part of the Book of Mormon, and I felt humbled to testify of Christ when He was right there with us. It was so crazy because last time we were there, we felt stumped as to how to get her to church, how to get her reading the Book of Mormon, how to get her baptized. She believes in God and agrees with all our doctrine and “way of life,” but doesn’t want to come to church or do anything. And here was this miracle! We went in with the intention to teach the restoration, but didn’t know how we could get things on track with her stories and talking and advice and two cents. And then, there was Heavenly Father! Providing the way, as always. I’m so grateful.
I asked for a blessing this week, and had a very tender experience as I heard those words and felt the Spirit. The thing that stuck out most was “the Lord is pleased.” This is all I needed to hear to recharge my batteries and reignite my passion to be here and serve with all my soul. And don’t worry, dad, I was blessed with physical safety–that I’ll be safe and also feel safe “for angels are all around you. And they truly do bear you up.”
The Lord lives and loves me. I felt it during this blessing because I have not voiced those feelings of inadequacy or doubt to anyone. The lord knows me. And my heart was brought back to Elder Holland’s words in conference about charitable acts and service: “The ocean would be one drop less if we didn’t do our part.” I’m just trying to do my part. And I’m grateful the Lord is accepting my small part.
We were so stoked to have a member–Hermana Dilone–say she could come with us to some lessons. We met up and were on our way to our visit with Daisy and then Daisy cancelled on us. Fiddle. And fiddle again because now we have a member with us. We did some rearranging and tried our backups (which also fell through) and then went to Edelmira’s house. This was AWESOME. Hermana Dilone and Edelmira are pretty much best friends already. They talked nonstop for about an hour and a half and Hermana Card and I just sat and listened and enjoyed la bandera. It was especially awesome because we learned SO much about Edelmira and her situation–why she doesn’t come to church, her background, her marriage. Hermana Dilone and Edelmira really hit it off and it was a huge testament to me about how important members are in missionary work. I can already see how many investigators are attached to us–think of us as their older sisters, or daughters, or friends. And don’t get me wrong, it is great to be friends and close with them, but it makes me worry for when we leave. Will they still come to church? Will they get baptized? My mom warned me before I came out to make sure people are being converted to the gospel, and not to the missionaries. I am trying to do that, and this experience with Hermana Dilone and Edelmira really showed me that it is possible and BETTER for members to be doing the missionary work. The members and the ward are what’s important. Not the missionaries–not ever are we important. We can do, in all honesty, really nothing for anyone out here. We have heard absolute horror stories about marriages, childhoods, living conditions, situations and border crossings, and everything in between. And all I can do is help them turn to God. I don’t have money or a job or therapeutic skills or anything. Nothing! I have my testimony. And that is all. But you know what? That’s it. That’s all I need. And the Lord requires a willing heart and mind to do his work. And I am willing.
I love you all! So much it hurts. Also, as I write this. I’m sitting in Central Park on my way to the temple. Happy as a clam.